He stopped me in the kitchen, wrapped his massive arms around me, and said, “I love you, Mom,” and that’s all it took for the dam to break. I had been purposefully keeping myself busy, and avoiding him, the morning we were scheduled to drop him off at college.
There was something familiar and comfortable about slipping into autopilot mom role. Surely he didn’t remember to pack peanut butter, or floss, or Clorox wipes. Busyness would keep me moving, and not feeling, and that’s exactly what I needed that morning. I thought I had already grieved this rite of passage, and that sadness had been eclipsed by excitement for what was in store. But that was before he hugged me, and then all bets were off that I’d make it through the day without tears.
Been here, done this before (but it’s still hard)
That’s a snippet of the “fun” emotional roller coaster I’ve been on lately. The funny thing is, I’ve been here and done this before. I should be better at this now that 50% of our kids are away at college. But with each child launched, there are new emotions and new dynamics that change at home.
Scrolling through my social media feeds, I know I’m not alone. I see lots of stories of moms and dads loading up their cars, driving across town, or across the country, to drop off their kids at college. For some of my friends, this is their first time, and others are newly empty nesters. No matter how seasoned you may be at this life transition, each time it occurs, we’re forced to reckon with the new normal.
If the process of sending your kids off is already behind you, you might be thinking, “Now what?” Now that all the decor has been purchased, the fridges are stocked, and the pencil pouches are filled, what do we do now?
We feel that our role as Mom and Dad has shifted. There seem to be new rules, but no one knows exactly what they are. How often should we call or not call? Should we admit how often we stalk them on Life360 and Instagram? And how can we encourage, support, and especially pray for our kids when they’re away at college?
Like you, I want to steward this new phase of parenting well. When my kids were little, certain parenting books were well-worn reference tools on my bedside table. Those how-to books are in shorter supply for this phase of parenting. No matter how unfamiliar this territory is, we do have the “how to” guide for everything that pertains to life and godliness, the Word of God. It even shows us how to pray for our kids.
Praying deeper for our college-aged kids
We know that when we repeat God’s word back to him, we’re praying his will. There’s no doubt as to whether God will answer these requests in the affirmative because we know it’s what God wants for us. So while we want to be faithful to pray for the next exam they’re worried about, and pray for them to find good friends, we also need to pray deeper.
Who better to teach us this, than Paul? His prayer for the Ephesian church tells us a lot about where we should set our spiritual focus. He could’ve prayed for their circumstances to change in the pagan and hostile city in which they lived. But in Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul prayed for their deeper spiritual needs.
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
A sample prayer for your college-aged kids
There’s so much there, right? You can break it down, and personalize this portion of Scripture for your kids. There’s no one right way to do it, and your prayer may be different than mine. But as you read it, pray it. It might sound something like this…
Lord, I give you thanks and pray for [child’s name] (vvs 15-16). I pray that you would give (name) the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of your Son, while he’s in class today (v 17).
Would you show him his life’s path and open his eyes and heart to the hope of his calling (v 18)? When he’s feeling like he’s suffering lack, would you show him the riches of his inheritance as your son (v 18)?
While he’s learning about the vastness of the universe, or the intricacies of DNA, would you reveal to him afresh that that is evidence of your immeasurable greatness, your power, and your might (v 19)?
Show him again how the resurrection is the most important fact of history, and that Jesus is seated above every spiritual and physical realm, and the work of redemption is finished (v 20).
Give him boldness to proclaim the risen Christ to those around him, knowing that no matter what godless philosophies he encounters, in reality all things are under your feet (v 22). Jesus, thank you that I can rest knowing you are in charge, and you rule over all things including your church forevermore. (v 23).
In the mighty name of Jesus, amen.
What we really want for them
Those are powerful truths and life-transforming words to pray over our kids. Parents, isn’t that what we really want? More than straight A’s, good friends, and a high-paying career path, we want their time away from home to open their spiritual eyes. We want them to see the hope of their calling and find Jesus to be more glorious, more supreme, and more worthy of their devotion.
Instead of graduating woke, we want them to graduate awake to the all-surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ.
So while the rules of our engagement might’ve changed, some things will never change. Our Heavenly Father never changes (Mal 3:6), and we can pray his Word for our college-aged kids with confidence, knowing he will answer, “YES!” His Word is the “how to” book we’re looking for, and it contains everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
And for all those other issues our college kids will have to figure out, like where the nearest grocery store is, or where they can find their favorite peanut butter, there’s always Amazon, and there’s always Mom and Dad.
Because of grace,
P.S. My other favorite portion of Scripture to pray over my family is Colossians 1:9-18. Check it out, and pray it for your family and loved ones too.